Sunday, November 28, 2010

UNIT 3: Our Anchorage in God

FOCUS: God, maker and Lord of all things; thus, idolatry as the chief sin (including modern versions where "images made to look like . . ." sit in museums, in textbooks etc and are used to pull us away from foundation on God; in the name of science or racial solidarity with Egypt etc). Faith – i.e. repentant trust in and loyalty to God based on his Word -- as our due and proper response to God, on the Heb 11:1 - 6 principle
___________________


TOPICS:

INTRODUCTION

God, Maker of All Things and Lord of All

The shamrock principle, or: how can 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 make sense?

Ingratitude, disloyalty & idolatry, then and now

The Pagan Copycat thesis: "It's on the walls of the pyramids  of Egypt . . . "

"Without faith, it is impossible to please God"

FOR DISCUSSION AND ASSIGNMENTS



















INTRODUCTION: Before we reflect on God, the Maker of all things, it is appropriate to first pause and reflect -- and, indeed, worship -- through a grand old Swedish hymn so beloved of Billy Graham:



God, Maker of All Things and Lord of All


The Scriptures begin simply and solemnly but eloquently, as God, the Creator, sets the scene for life:
 Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.


3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.


 6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse  in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made2  the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were f above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven.  And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.


 9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth,  and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

[ESV. (NB: We have neither space nor time to here ponder debates on the hows and whens of creation; those interested may cf. a sister course here, here, here and here, then also here on implications for our culture. The debate here, the ICR survey here, wi
th Wiens' remarks here, as well as J P Moreland, here may help focus related issues on biblical interpretation.)]
So, we do not meet a subtle philosophical argument to try to prove that there is a God to those inclined to disbelieve, or a complex definition of his attributes; we simply see God acting, creating a cosmos and a would suitable for life, then for intelligent and morally governed life. Us.

The rest falls out almost by implication: as Creator of all, he is credibly all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing.

As the Creator of all, he is also the Lord of all.

Since the material cosmos is a unified creation, and a carefully ordered creation, it is contingent and subject to both change and destruction according to laws of necessity and chance set up by the Creator. And yes, the unity amidst diversity of the cosmos speaks of a Creator who is One. By contrast, the one true God is of a different and enduring essence: he is an -- nay, the -- eternal spirit.

Indeed, he is the necessary being who grounds all of reality. Without acknowledging and respecting him, we have no sound ground for truly understanding our world. 

 Paul, in confronting the Stoics and Epicureans on Mars Hill in Athens, spoke in these terms, terms that reflect the Scriptural-Hebraic vision, but which also engage thinking men in light of the ideas, heritage and artifacts of their culture. For sound theology must ever seek to build a bridge to men where they are, not a wall to keep them out:
 Ac 17:22 . . .  “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[c] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.
Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[d]
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[e]
29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
 The greatest of modern scientists (and, strangely, one who also stood in the line of the Magi of old), the Lincolnshire physicist Sir Isaac Newton, therefore aptly echoed many of these threads of thought in the General Scholium to his greatest work, Principia:
This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. And if the fixed Stars are the centers of other like systems, these, being form'd by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed Stars is of the same nature with the light of the Sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems. And lest the systems of the fixed Stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those Systems at immense distances from one another.


This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all: And on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God Pantokrator, or Universal Ruler . . . And from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a Living, Intelligent, and Powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is Supreme or most Perfect. He is Eternal and Infinite, Omnipotent and Omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from Eternity to Eternity; his presence from Infinity to Infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He is not Eternity and Infinity, but Eternal and Infinite; he is not Duration and Space, but he endures and is present. He endures forever, and is every where present; and, by existing always and every where, he constitutes Duration and Space . . . [.]


'Tis allowed by all that the supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always and every where. Whence also he is all similar, all eye, all ear, all brain, all arm, all power to perceive, to understand, and to act; but in a manner not at all human, in a manner not at all corporeal, in a manner utterly unknown to us . . . We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final causes; we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion . . . [.]


All that diversity of natural things which we find, suited to different times and places, could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. But, by way of allegory, God is said to see, to speak, to laugh, to love, to hate, to desire, to give, to receive, to rejoice, to be angry, to fight, to frame, to work, to build. For all our notions of God are taken from the ways of mankind, by a certain similitude which, though not perfect, has some likeness, however. And thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy.
Of course, in the three hundred or so years since 1713, many have been moved to imagine of God that they have no need of "that hypothesis" as they muse upon his Creation. Sadly, such are simply blind.

For, the care, complex yet elegant organisation and beauty with which the cosmos and life within it are created from the smallest to the grandest scale, point to God's care and provision for our needs, hinting that he is concerned, artistic and loving, not just a functionality-minded engineer. For just one instance, let us look at the eye of God nebula, as fine a piece of abstract art as was ever painted by man:


Nor, do we need a high-power telescope to see such beauty in the heavens. 

A cool, sky-clear countryside evening that is not washed out by city lights or the Full Moon -- a night such as David doubtless often spent as a youth with his sheep -- will at once show what the Psalmist meant in the 19th Psalm (especially if the Milky Way disk of our Galaxy is visible; photo courtesy Mila of Wikipedia, under CCA):


       Ps 19:1 ​​​​​​​ The heavens declare the glory of God,
        and the sky above  proclaims his handiwork.
       2 ​​​​​​​​Day to day pours out speech,
        and night to night reveals knowledge.
       3 ​​​​​​​​There is no speech, nor are there words,
        whose voice is not heard.

       4 ​​​​ Their  voice  goes out through all the earth,
        and their words to the end of the world.
        In them he has set a tent for the sun,
       5 ​​​​​​​​ which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
        and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
       6 ​​​​​​​​Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
        and its circuit to the end of them,
        and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
      
7 ​​​​​​​​ The law of the LORD is perfect,
        reviving the soul;
        the testimony of the LORD is sure,
        making wise the simple;
       8 ​​​​​​​ the precepts of the LORD are right,
        rejoicing the heart;
        the commandment of the LORD is pure,
        enlightening the eyes;
       9 ​​​​​​​​the fear of the LORD is clean,
        enduring forever;
        the rule  of the LORD are true,
        and righteous altogether.
    
10 ​​​​​​​​More to be desired are they than gold,
        even much fine gold;
        a sweeter also than honey
        and drippings of  the honeycomb.
      11 ​​​​​​​​Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
         in keeping them there is great reward. [ESV]

And, as the Psalm goes on to counsel, the mind and conscience we have within jointly testify that our God is a good, moral Creator, the IS who through his inherent goodness, love and utter moral purity grounds OUGHT.

Moreover, that quietly insistent inner voice of conscience also reminds us that we are accountable before him for our thoughts, words and deeds.

In short, Rom 1 is clearly right:
Rom 1:19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to [men], because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made . . . [ESV]
And, so are Heb 1 and 11:
Heb 1: 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs . . . .

Heb 11: 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible . . . . 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Thus, we see that from the world of nature, the world of life and our experience of ourselves as conscious and en-conscienced creatures, already it is evident that an eternal, divine and moral power stands behind reality as Creator and Lord. This, we may suppress, but it is repeated and amplified in the scriptures that have come down to us, finding culmination in the Son, who came as loving Saviour, Sacrificial Lamb and rose as Living Lord. And having risen, he poured out his Spirit, who guides us into all truth. Truth, which it should be our delight to learn and to live.

In 2 Peter 1, the apostle Peter, on the eve of his martyrdom c. 65 AD, highlights the value, relevance, nature, power and source of that revelation:
 2 Pet 1: 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body,8  to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 

 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 


17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,9  with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

So also, when he too was about to be martyred c. 67 AD, Paul -- writing to Timothy -- underscored the power and value of the Scriptures; directly, those of the Old Testament, but also by reasonable extension those of the New:
2 Tim 3:12 . . . all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom1  you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God2  may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Consequently, if we are to soundly reflect on and respond to God, we must first and foremost take heed to and respect the counsels of the scriptures that are backed up by the authentication of the resurrection of our Lord from the dead. That will require that we must appropriately respond to not only the signs in our world that point to him, but also to the teachings we find in these scriptures.



Indeed, it is thus no accident that Paul, speaking by the Spirit, warns us in no uncertain terms:


1 Cor 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 

 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,   

  
                    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
        and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 


 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 


21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men . . . . 


2: 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers,1  did not come proclaiming to you the testimony  of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God . . . . 


9 . . .  as it is written,    
 
                    “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
        nor the heart of man imagined,
        what God has prepared for those who love him”- 


 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 


12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
 
 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned . . .
If we are to make sound progress in understanding God, we must be willing to receive His Spirit, and humbly submit to, trust and heed his Word.



The rest of this unit and course will proceed on this premise.




The shamrock principle, or: how can 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 make sense?

Right in the beginning of the Creation account, we See that God is maker of the Heavens and the Earth. But also, we can immediately see in Gen 1: 2 how the Spirit of God hovers over the as yet unformed earth. Then, as we reach v. 26, we read: "Let us make man  in our image, after our likeness . . . " 

Then also, in the second statement of the decalogue in Deuteronomy 6, we find the great credal prayer of Judaism, the Schema, in v. 4: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one [אֶחָד --'echad (ekh-awd') adj. 1. (properly) united, i.e. one]."

The peculiar thing, is that the word for "one" is the word for complex, not simple unity: echad, not yachid. The former being used, for instance, of the unity of grapes in a bunch in the story of the spies returning from Canaan. 

So, already, right from the books of the Law, we see a hint that the sense in which God is one is complex, not simple.

So, then, the plot thickens as we see how Jesus (having answered many trick questions during Passion Week) posed a question in turn from the peculiar turn of phrase in Psalm 110:1 to those who had been questioning him:
Matt 22:41 While the Pharisees were assembled, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How then does David by the Spirit call him ‘Lord,’ saying,

     44 ​​​​​​​‘The Lord [יְהוֹוָה Yhovah (yeh-ho-vaw')] said
to my lord
[אָדוֹן אָדוֹן 'adown (aw-done')],
       “Sit at my right hand,
       until I put your enemies under your feet”’? [Ps 110:1]
    
45 ​​​​​​​If David then calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”

46 ​​​​​​​
No one was able to answer him a word, and from that day on no one dared to question him any longer. [ESV, emphases added]
The challenge of course was that both YHWH and Adonai are Divine titles. 

Indeed, out of respect, YHWH was read as "Adonai" in the Synagogue; the root of our rendering "The LORD" for YHWH. 

That is, the question of the ultimate nature of the Messiah was being put on the table.

The New Testament's answer to the puzzle is perhaps most clearly seen in Heb 1 as was already cited above on God's revelation to us (which, by the way, is cited in the Nicene Creed):
Heb 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

 5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
    

                    “You are my Son,
        today I have begotten you”? [Ps. 2:7]
     
 Or again,
    

    “I will be to him a father,
        and he shall be to me a son”? [2 Sam 7:14]

6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,     
                   

“Let all God's angels worship him.” [cf. Ps 97:7]

7 Of the angels he says,     
                   

“He makes his angels winds,
        and his ministers a flame of fire.” [cf. Ps 104:4, esp LXX]

8 But of the Son he says,     
                   

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
        the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
       9 ​​​​​​​​You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
        therefore God, your God, has anointed you
        with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” [Ps 45:6]

10 And, 
   

        “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
        and the heavens are the work of your hands;
      11 ​​​​​​​​they will perish, but you remain;
        they will all wear out like a garment,
      12 ​​​​​​​​like a robe you will roll them up,
        like a garment they will be changed.
        But you are the same,
        and your years will have no end.” [Ps 102:25 - 27]

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,     
                   

“Sit at my right hand
  until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? [Ps 110:1]
Similarly, we see from John 16, that the Comforter to come, would be allon parakleton, not heteros, a comforter of the same -- not a diverse -- nature:
Jn 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper [allon parakleton],  to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. [ESV]
That is, the Spirit who would come to dwell in and empower those who are in Christ, would be a comforter of the same essential nature, the Spirit of God. So much is this so that when Peter rebuked Ananias for his deception, we read how:
Ac 5:3 . . . Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” [ESV]
One can only lie to a person, and here, to lie to the Spirit is to lie to God. No wonder the poor man who fell into such folly seems to have had a heart attack on the spot.

So, we may begin to see how 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 can make sense: in the case of complex unity, the whole is distinct form the parts or facets of that whole, so there is no logical contradiction here. 

That is, the matter is much as the famous (but probably apocryphal) story of what happened when the pagan Irish challenged Patrick:
As a missionary in Ireland, St Patrick was challenged by the pagans to explain the concept of the Trinity. Being a former slave-shepherd in that same country, he did the unexpected -- he reached down and plucked a shamrock, a three-lobed leaf.






Standing back up, he then asked:
"How many leaves are there here? If but one, then why are there three lobes? If three, then why is there but one stem? If you cannot explain the mystery of the shamrock leaf, why then do you expect me to explain the far more profound one of the Trinity?"
And that, according to the story, is how the shamrock leaf became the symbol of Christian Ireland.

Whether or not the story is true, it goes to the heart of the issue of the concept of the Trinity: that the mystery of the One and the Many lies at the core of being, and that we will find this pattern as a signature of the Godhead in many aspects of the cosmos, including in our own lives and thought-world. 

In particular, it at once lays to rest the jibe that Christians are fools who believe that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1, for, the shamrock leaf is both three and one at the same time, but not in the same sense, i.e. the question of logical contradiction strictly does not arise. 

For, the essence of a real contradiction is that contradictory statements or implications affirm and deny the same thing in the same sense.  

Thus, the Christian understanding that the unity of the Godhead is complex, not simple -- the one God is manifest in three persons who share a common Divine nature -- cannot be a contradiction, as the one-ness and the three-ness refer to quite distinct things. 


Instead, what is being affirmed is that the oneness of God is complex rather than simple, just as the cosmos made by that same Triune God is a unified whole that embraces the vast diversity we see around us; e.g. water manifests itself as solid, liquid and gas, but it is the one and the same substance H-O-H all along. 

We may now elaborate through a diagram that builds on the Shamrock mystery and the Fish symbol used as an early symbol of the Christian faith in Jesus as Son of God and Saviour. For, the Greek word for "fish," Ichthus, can be used as an acrostic for, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour:


The triune view of God as Complex Unity

This complex unity view of God is quite significant, as it means that the Bible-based, Christian, redemptive triune view of God, the ground of reality, offers probably the only serious solution to the vexed worldview problem of the one and the many: a world of diversity that is also one. 


A Probe Ministores article aptly summarises the issue:
When it comes to discussing worldviews the starting point is the question, Why is there something rather than nothing?{6} As you may already know, there are three basic answers to this question. The pantheist would generally answer that all is one, all is god, and this "god with a small g" has always existed. Second, the naturalist would say that something, namely matter [in some form], has always existed. Third, the theist holds that a personal, Creator-God is eternal and out of nothing He created all that there is . . . .

When we look around at what exists, we see an amazing collection of seemingly disparate elements such as gasses, liquids, and solids, planets and stars, horses, flowers, rocks, and trees. And seeing all of these things we notice that they all exist in some sort of equilibrium or unity. How is it that such diversity exists in such apparent unity? And are we as human beings any more important than gasses or ants? . . . .


The pantheist's commitment to an all-inclusive oneness leaves no room for the real world in which people live, where I am not you and neither of us is one with a tree or a mountain.
The naturalist has no problem accepting the reality of the physical world and the diversity present in it. However, there is no solid ground for understanding why it is all held together. In short, [as Francis Schaeffer often noted] there is no infinite reference point so we are left with the circular argument: everything holds together because everything holds together; if it didn't, we wouldn't be here to see it. What a coincidence! In fact, coincidence, or chance, is the only basis for anything. As a result human beings are left with an absurd existence . . . .

Trinitarian theism
is the only option that contains within itself an explanation of both the one and the many while saying that people are important. In the Trinity, God has revealed Himself as the eternal, infinite reference point for His creation. Moreover, the Trinity provides the only adequate basis for understanding the problem of unity and diversity since God has revealed Himself to be one God who exists in a plural unity. Ultimately then, as Horrell concludes, "Every thing and every person has real significance because each is created by and finally exists in relationship to the Triune God." [Article, What Difference Does the Trinity Make?, emphases, links and parentheses added.]
But, if we overlook the possibility for complex unity, we may easily "see" a contradiction in the doctrine that God is triune, where none in fact exists. 

A further example will help clarify how our failure to grasp a concept may make us perceive a contradiction when the real problem is our lack of adequate concepts. Let us ask: is it possible to stand at just one place on the Earth and be due north of London, England, Bridgetown, Barbados and Kingston, Jamaica?

At first, this seems to be impossible, but if we remember that the earth is round [not flat like most maps are], we can go stand at the North Pole:



This concept of God as triune, embracing unity and diversity, can be further visualised in the famous Triquetra, which builds on the concept of the shamrock. (The interlacing three-lobed loop below is the triquetra proper, and each lobe is a vesica piscis, a fish-like shape made from two intersecting circles):





The Shield of the Trinity then captures the classic conception of God as triune more specifically, as we may see from a surprisingly good definition at Wiki (which simplifies the underlying Athanasian creed):


The Shield of Faith, C13
The definition, excerpted:
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, one of the most important in the Christian faith, teaches the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons (Greek: hypostases)[1] in one divine Being (Greek: Ousia), called the Godhead.[2]

Saying that God exists as three persons but is one God means that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have exactly the same nature or being as God the Father in every way. Whatever attributes and power God the Father has, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have as well. "Thus, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely loving, omniscient."[3]  . . . .
Personhood in the Trinity does not match the common Western understanding of "person" as used in the English language—it does not imply an "individual, self-actualized center of free will and conscious activity."[9]

To the ancients, personhood "was in some sense individual, but always in community as well."[9]:p.186 In the Trinity doctrine, each person is understood as having the same identical essence or nature, not merely similar natures.
The doctrine, of course transcends our ability to fully understand. But, in a quantum physics world, that is getting increasingly familiar. An electron or a photon have properties of BOTH waves and particles, and depending on how you interact, you will see one or the other sets of properties. 

Sometimes, we say they are wavicles, or speak of a "duality." 


But, waves rolling up unto a beach and tiny cricket balls do not exactly seem to be closely similar or easily reconcilable concepts! Be that as it may, on the best physical theory we have, and on a great many experimental results, we are indeed forced to see such things as -- yes, we must echo the Athanasian Creed here: incomprehensible -- wavicles: waves and particles that have a unified identity.


Indeed, we may be bold enough to say that that unity in diversity is a signature characteristic of the cosmos, reflecting its Triune Author.


Going further, in this principle of complex unity lurks at least some of the force in the Christian teaching of 1 Jn 4:8: God, as to his essential nature, is love -- an inherently inter-personal concept. 

From this, we then see how God, having made us in his image, i.e. with the capacity to love -- the greatest of the virtues -- therefore left us the power of choice, thus necessarily the power to selfishly reject both God and our fellow man, i.e. sin. But, in his love, God sent his unique Son into our sin-scarred world as Saviour, redeeming us from the folly of sin and the chaos that flows from it; ultimately utterly defeating evil.  (And, yes, the problem of good and evil -- even, struggling in one and the same breast -- is one manifestation of the problem of the one and the many.)

Then, as we respond to the One who came in love, died for our sins and rose triumphant over sin and death, we receive the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son, who empowers us in life, love, service and witness. Thus, according to the scriptures, we are baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit: the one and the many conjoined, reflecting the profoundly trinitarian biblical roots of the whole concept and course of salvation. 

At the same time, the complex unity, redemptive concept of God is strange indeed, so strange that it is such that we humans would not -- nay, could not -- have conceived it on our own: it is a wondrous mystery

That is, it must be revealed, rather than discovered by human insight and thought [cf. 1 Cor 1:17 - 25!]; which is exactly what Christians have always claimed.

Ingratitude, disloyalty & idolatry, then and now

As this section is being initially written, Christianity -- at Christmas time, nothing less -- is under public assault through an advertising campaign of the American Humanist Association. 


These atheists and their sponsors apparently see nothing wrong or insensitive about picking this season to launch a village atheist-level campaign to try to discredit Christianity. (They are building on the pattern in recent years where news magazines and television networks have routinely done much the same, though in a more cleverly academic guise, often riffing off the ever so confident declarations of the notorious Jesus Seminar or the like.)


And yet, the timing and crudity of the attacks is utterly revealing about an underlying rage at God and -- frankly -- a worrying hostility or even hate towards people and events that remind them of God. They are desperate to dismiss and forget God. Brad O'Leary, in a current article, captures the essence of the self-refuting irony involved:
Just in time for Christmas, the group is in the midst of a six-figure television, print and Internet ad campaign it says is designed to get people to "consider humanism," which is an atheistic "faith" in science and man's ability to reason. The campaign, however, is short on reason . . . .


The campaign is an attack on Christianity that juxtaposes quotes from Old and New Testament books of the Bible with quotes from famous non-believers. For example, the AHA cherry-picks a particularly barbaric Old Testament verse (avoiding any context or scholarly explanation, of course) and then puts it next to a quote from an atheist calling for global governance  . . . .
[Comment: Can you imagine them doing the same with, say, cites from the Quran? Or even actually publishing a serious, textual and historical analysis of say Surah 9:5 and 29 - 35 or so?  Perish the thought! For, they know full well what would happens to those who would dare do such. And so, the hypocrisy lies revealed: Christians are being assaulted like this precisely because we are likely to "turn the other cheek," as our Lord counselled. But "turn[ing] the other cheek" does not mean that we do not have a right or duty to expose and correct error that would lead men astray at the peril of their souls.]
All religions, even the godless ones, are driven to recruit new members. But you don't see Christians attacking the Jewish faith during Hanukkah as a way to gain new followers. You don't see Jews seeking to expand popular appeal by publicly attacking Christians during Easter . . . .


Perhaps the most absurd defense of AHA's anti-Christian Christmas campaign comes from its [principal sponsor, "Todd Stiefel, a retired pharmaceutical company executive"].


"We must denounce politicians that contend U.S. law should be based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments," says Stiefel. "It has not been based on these and should never be. Our Founding Fathers created a secular democracy."

But obviously, one does not seek to undermine a dominant worldview for a culture unless 0ne knows that in fact it is precisely foundational to that culture. 


So, O'Leary is entirely correct to rebut that "our American system of governance is deeply rooted in, and based on, the Judeo-Christian values practiced and cherished by our founders. Even a cursory study of American history reveals this to be true." 
[E.g. Cf. Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner's legacy to the Harvard Library. Yes, the very same Senator who -- having given an intemperate and personally abusive speech against pro-slavery advocates in the Senate -- was physically assaulted, beaten on the head at gun-point and gravely hurt in the US Congress' Senate Chamber by an elected pro-slavery Representative of South Carolina, during the run-up to the US Civil War. We invite inspection of his personal copy of Benjamin Franklin Morris' classic Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic (Philadelphia, PA: George W. Childs, 1864). This copy of the book was placed in the Harvard University Library, April 28, 1874 as a bequest six weeks after the Senator's death at age 63, and is globally accessible; having been digitised and preserved by Google through project Gutenberg.]
Similarly, it is no accident that at the same time, there is a major campaign to homosexualise marriage, on the pretense that so-called "same sex marriage" is an established right that is unfairly being denied people with certain sexual proclivities, through hate and archaic laws imposed through blind following of a Bronze Age barbaric tribal deity and scriptures penned by his equally barbaric devotees and imposed on otherwise enlightened cultures by "ignorant, stupid, insane (or wicked . . . )" fundamentalist followers today. 


Somehow, the point that marriage has hitherto always meant -- just compare the centuries old standard legal forms for proclaiming Banns of Marriage between Batchelor  XY and Spinster XX --  that men leave their parents and cleave to their wives, thus procreating the race and raising the next generation in the central institution of society the family, is given short shrift. And those of us who question the wisdom of doing so willy-nilly, increasingly find ourselves accused of "hate," "hate speech" and "discrimination," thus subject to censorship and prosecution under thought police laws that are also being pushed on unwary communities and states.


What is going on?


Simple. 


We are increasingly living in a Romans 1 world


That is, one of ingratitude to God, rejection of the testimony of the world without and mind and conscience within, leading to putting up of images made to look like men, birds, beasts, reptiles and the like. 

In the old days, in Temples, nowadays, in Museums. 

Serving as substitutes for loyalty to God, through myths that invite us -- under false colours of "knowledge" -- to substitute creature for Creator. 

So, minds (in the name of being "illuminated" or "enlightened") are en-darkened, hearts and consciences are benumbed, and moral principles are perverted and cast the one against the other, as we turn to new political, economic and academic messiahs proclaiming beguiling but twisted visions of the future that -- predictably -- lead instead to suicidal folly, chaos and disintegration in the community and civilisation. 


New-style idolatry, in short.


However, without some context, we might be tempted to miss the full force of relevance of Romans 1 to our time. That is why this section began with current trends. 

Let us also therefore pause and read Heinrich Heine in the conclusion to his 1831 Religion and Philosophy in Germany. For, here -- using precisely the analogy of idolatry in a new guise -- he prophesied chillingly (and all too accurately) where such intellectualised rebellion against God and the resulting idolatry of academic fashions and their popularisation as ideologies and political/ cultural movements would lead:

Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered [the Swastika, visually, is a twisted, broken cross . . .], the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. …

The old stone gods will then rise from long ruins and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and Thor will leap to life with his giant hammer and smash the Gothic cathedrals [Nazism was consciously neo-pagan, following Blavatsky's popularised Aryan Man myths]. …

… Do not smile at my advice — the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder … comes rolling somewhat slowly [it took 100 years], but … its crash … will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. …

At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead [Cf. the eagle, symbol of America and its air-power], and lions in farthest Africa [cf. the British lion and the frequent fate of its armies and their generals in North Africa at the hands of Rommel] will draw in their tails and slink away. … A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.
Sadly, at the cost of a devastated continent and sixty million lives, Heine was right, even down to the symbolism he so aptly used.


Let us therefore hear the counsel of Paul:
Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to i their hardness of heart. 19 They  have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!- 21 assuming that m you have heard about him and n were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off  your old self,  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness . . . . 



Eph 5: 1  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things y the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

7 Therefore a do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,   
 

“Awake, O sleeper,
  and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
 In the Revelation of John, we see a prophecy of the ultimate form of the folly of idolatry, the Anti-Christ, beast system constituting an unholy power-alliance of demonic political pseudo-messianism, overwhelming military power, corrupt religious institutions and abuse of the power of licensing economic activity:
Rev. 13: 1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea [often seen as the masses of humanity], with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon [Satan] gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” 

 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling,  that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.  And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all a who dwell on earth will worship it . . . .
     
 11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence,  and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast,  whose mortal wound was healed. 13  It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of  the beast  it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived . . . . 



16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave,  to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666 [i.e. Nero, the popular tyrant of Rome, resurgent; cf here on 666 vs 616]. [ESV]
Such is the predictably oppressive, suicidally self-destructive end-result of unchecked idolatrous rebellion against the God of Heaven. Including. that led by corrupt religious leaders acting under the false colours of Christ, bearing the horns of a lamb and wearing sheep's -- or shepherd's -- clothing but speaking with the voice of the wolfish dragon. 


And, of this we have had 2,000 years of fair warning (and, sadly, all too many examples).

But also, in a new age world, we have to address another line of argument:

The Pagan Copycat thesis: "It's on the walls of the pyramids  of Egypt . . . "

A hundred years and more ago, it was a fairly common view, inculcated by the History of Religions skeptical school of thought, that the concepts of God and religious ideas in the Bible trace to  especially Babylonian or Egyptian antecedents, with Greek or Gnostic ones also emphasised for the New Testament. 

Frazer's The Golden Bough (especially in the abridged form) popularised these ideas, and they took fairly deep root among generally educated but non-technical people. Such people and their intellectual heirs are often unaware of the subsequent history, once the Dead Sea Scrolls began to be discovered and discussed from 1947 on. 


Or, as Don Howell explains in BibSac, V150, #599, Jul 93, p310:
At the turn of the 20th century a new approach to Paul was forged by the religionsgeschichtliche Schule, “the History of Religions School.”

Spawned in Germany, this approach built on the Tübingen dichotomy between Palestinian and Hellenistic Christianity, and found the origins of the more developed Pauline Christology in the mystery religions and pagan cults of the Greek world. The mystery religions of Greece (Eleusian), Egypt (Isis and Osiris), Syria (Adonis), Asia Minor (Cybele), and Rome (Mithras) were researched and mined for parallels with Pauline theology. A dying-rising redeemer god, the exalted kurios, sacramental redemption, initiation into mystic participation in the deity, gnosis, and pneumatic experience were mystery-religion concepts claimed to have conditioned Paul’s thinking . . .
 However, as C.E. Arnold, in his article on "Syncretism" in the excellent Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Development (Ralph Martin and Peter Davids (eds.), IVP:1997) documents, in the aftermath of the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries and other archaeological finds since the 1940's:
 “The subsequent course of scholarship has effectively dismantled many of the conclusions drawn by the History-of-Religions School. Various studies have demonstrated that there was not one coherent gnostic redeemer myth nor was there a common mystery-religion theology [which includes Egyptian forms] . . . Judaism was not the syncretistic religion that some scholars once thought that it was. Now most scholars are reluctant to assume that Gnosticism even existed during the genesis and early development of Christianity.

“The majority of scholars are reaffirming the essential Jewishness of the early Christian movement. The background of various Christian rites, ideas and terms is being illustrated out of the OT and Judaism, in contrast to the previous generation that pointed to gnostic texts and the mystery religions. The background of the Christian practice of baptism, for instance, is now seldom traced to the mystery initiation sacraments of Attis, Adonis or Osiris but to the OT initiation rite of circumcision and the Jewish water purification rituals.


“Gunkel, Bultmann and others clearly undervalued the formative influence of the OT and Judaism for early Christianity. Neither were they sufficiently open to the possibility that the NT writers could use religious language shared by adherents of other religions without adopting the full meaning of that language, as it was understood in other religious contexts. In other words, Christian writers could use the term mystery (e.g., Rev 10:7; Ign. Magn. 9.1; Diogn. 4.6) without implying that Christianity is a mystery religion like the cults of Cybele or Mithras. John could use the image of light (1 Jn 1:5, 7; 2:8, 9, 10) without dependence on a gnostic light-darkness dualism. Both of these terms have long histories of usage in the OT that provide us with the essential conceptual framework for understanding their NT usage. Yet at the same time they are terms that would communicate in a Gentile world, albeit now with a different set of connotations.



“There is also evidence that the apostles and leaders in the early Christian movement made explicit and earnest attempts to resist the syncretistic impulses of the age. For example, when Paul preached in Lystra (Acts 14:8–20), he was faced with an opportunity to make a syncretistic innovation to the gospel. Luke records that after Paul healed a crippled man the people of the city mistook him for Hermes (the messenger of Zeus) and Barnabas for Zeus . . . Rather than allowing any form of identification with their gods (even the identification of “the living God” with Zeus), Paul takes the bold step of telling them to “turn from these worthless things” to the one God, the Creator (Acts 14:15). Earliest Christianity appears to have made stringent effort to resist the larger cultural trend toward the identification of deities and directed people to the God of Israel, who had now revealed himself in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The "parallels to hellenistic thought"-based line of thought behind the pagan copycat theme is half a century out of date, and from the outset, such thinking cut across the relevant record. For instance in the case of  Lystra, the mythological tradition had been that Zeus and Hermes had come to visit Phrygia but had not been well-received by townspeople, apart from an elderly couple, Baucis and Philemon. So, they had destroyed the town with a sudden flood and made the couple into guardians of a supernaturally created temple. In Paul's day, when the missionaries healed a crippled man in the name of Jesus, the Lystrans thought the two gods had come back, and were determined to do better by them.  


Paul's reaction, as Arnold hints at, was telling: 
Acts 14:13 . . . the priest of  Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God,  who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” [ESV]
Similarly, when he reached Athens on his second missionary tour, Paul's reaction was not to the learning or artistry of the great city, but to its idols, and it was fiercely antagonistic: "his spirit was provoked [παρωξύνετο, paroxuneto, from παροξύνω -- paroxuno:  . . . to exasperate, to burn with anger] within him as he saw that the city was full of idols." [Act 17:16.] So, unsurprisingly, even though he later cited Cleanthes and Aratus in his speech to the Areopagus, it was to point to their blind groping towards and dim recognition of the Creator-God, not at all to identify Zeus with him. 


In short, Paul's reactions were those of a zealously monotheistic Jew, not a syncretising, philosophically sophisticated semi-pagan. 

 Just so, he did not shun to speak of what he must have known was unpalatable to many of the Areopagites: the resurrection of Jesus, not his "escape" from the prison of the body or the clever "substitution" of another victim suggested in ever so many Gnostic evasions of the shame of the cross. In the apostle's understanding, the Christian faith is based on the good news of the fulfilling of the messianic promises of the hebraic Scriptures, not on the blending in of Hellenistic popularised platonism or other pagan thought. And, to those who have no access to that tradition, the resurrection is a proof that God will judge the world in righteousness by the standard of Jesus.


Where we do find such compromises and syncretism is many decades later on, with the rise of the Gnostics. These were resisted by the Church Fathers as being caught up in heresy. For instance, this is how Irenaeus -- a disciple of Polycarp, in turn discipled by the elder John -- begins his famous c. 180 AD work, Against Heresies:
Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says, minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith, and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, [I have felt constrained, my dear friend, to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations.] These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of [superior] knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe; as if, forsooth, they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal, than that God who created the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth.


Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself . . . 
Recent popularisations of outdated History of Religions school claims  -- e.g. by Tom Harpur in his The Pagan Christ -- therefore do a disservice to the public, rather than enlightening it. And, the piling up of exaggerated or even imagined Hellenistic, Asiatic or Egyptian "parallels"  does not constitute proof of the claim. 


For instance, J P Holding of Tektonics cites how Harpur makes extensive use of theosophist Alvin B. Kuhn (1880 – 1963), who taught:
  • a] That the name of Jesus was derived from the Egyptian Iusa, which means "the coming divine Son who heals or saves."
  • b] That the god Horus is "an Egyptian Christos, or Christ . . . He and his mother, Isis, were the forerunners of the Christian Madonna and Child . . . " (NB: It is also suggested that Horus' "personal epithet was 'Iusa' the 'ever-becoming son' of 'Ptah,' the 'Father.' He was called the 'Holy Child.' ")
  • c] That Horus also "had a virgin birth, and that in one of his roles, he was 'a fisher of men with 12 followers.'"
  • d] That "the letters KRST appear on Egyptian mummy coffins many centuries BCE, and . . . this word, when the vowels are filled in . . . is really Karast or Krist, signifying Christ."
  • e]  That the doctrine of the incarnation "is in fact the oldest, most universal mythos known to religion. It was current in the Osirian religion in Egypt at least 4,000 years BCE."
In rebuttal, Holding notes (on consultation with academic Egyptologists and other relevant authorities):
a'] Ron Leprohan, of the University of Toronto, pointed out that while sa means 'son' in ancient Egyptian and iu means 'to come,' Kuhn and Harpur have the syntax all wrong . . . . the name Iusa simply does not exist in Egyptian. The name 'Jesus' is Greek, derived from a universally recognized Semitic name (Jeshu'a) borne by many people in the first century. (Consequently, it could not have been, and was not applied to Horus.)

b'] While all the scholars agreed that the image of the baby Horus and Isis has influenced the Christian iconography of Madonna and Child [which arose long after the C1], this is where the similarity stops . . . and, at any rate, there is no evidence for the idea that Horus was virgin born. Further, the New Testament Mary was certainly not a goddess, like Isis.

c'] There is no evidence for the idea that Horus was 'a fisher of men' -- or that his followers, the king's officials, were ever 12 in number.

d'] KRST is the word for 'burial' ('coffin' is written 'KRSW'); but there is no evidence whatsoever to link this with the Greek title 'Christos,' or Hebrew 'Mashiah.'

e']There is no mention of Osiris in Egyptian texts until about 2350 BCE, so Harpur's reference to the origins of Osirian religion is off by more than a millennium and a half . . . In fact, the earliest extant writing that we have dates from about 3200 BCE.)

f] Kuhn's redefinition of 'incarnation' and his attempt to root this in Egyptian religion is regarded as bogus by the Egyptologists I consulted. According to one: "Only the pharaoh was believed to have a divine aspect, the divine power of kingship, incarnated in the human being currently serving as the king. No other Egyptians ever believed they possessed even 'a little bit of the divine'."
In short, the "copycat" claims are quite short on warrant.


But the copied Egyptian mythology gambit, today, is primarily being used rhetorically -- i.e. to persuade -- on various levels. 

In the case of those neo-pagans who are pagans in pretty much the old fashioned sense, it is being syncretised with oriental mysticism as part of a diffused polytheistic, or pantheistic theology.  Atheistical or agnostic skeptics, are making the assertion that the Bible is a collection of myths -- unacknowledged copied myths at that -- so we need pay it no serious attention, and can freely disrespect its "barbaric bronze age deity": that ever so ugly literary character known as "God." For Afrocentrists, the claim is part of their racial identity, perhaps tinged by the skeptical notion that the Biblical faith is just re-worked pagan myths, of no greater factual credit than patently false, un-historical stories of gods.


The direct, objective answer to all of these, is that the copycat paganism idea is -- as was seen in summary -- fifty years out of date,  and by and large rests on dubious drawing out of exaggerated parallels that projects onto the past a common mythology that is not warranted by more recent scholarship. 

In particular, the plagiarism thesis fails to see the intrinsic hebraic roots of the Biblical faith (especially that the Christian witness looks no farther than the manifest fulfillment of scriptural prophecy and the saving promises of God  through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, with 500 eyewitnesses for its core warrant!), and it fails to address the point of the famous literary scholar C S Lewis' rebuttal in his book Miracles: Myth became fact.


That is, a myth can be legitimately seen as an outline, standard plot-line for a narrative (where the real artistic interest lies in how skillfully the skeleton is fleshed out and given the breath of life to make the story); but the mere fact that one may fit an account unto such a literary skeleton has nothing to do with whether or not the account is factual or not.


For instance, we commonly speak of a "David and Goliath" confrontation, without implying that there was no duel between a 16 year old lad and a champion Sea-Peoples warrior c. 1,000 BC in which a sling and five smooth stones played a crucial part. Just so, the mere fact that it is reported that Jesus of Nazareth, at his last Passover Meal -- a hebraic, scriptural tradition! -- used the corn and the wine symbolically in the spring-time at full Moon does not imply that an actual meal did not occur on the ground, as history.


Just so, too, that he is reported to have risen from death, having "suffered under Pontius Pilate," cannot simply be dismissed by pointing to Frazer-style exaggerated accounts of pagan mythological personifications of the winter-spring seasonal cycle. 

There is a stubborn little factual matter of 500 eyewitnesses who could not be budged -- not even by the threat or horrific reality of torture or judicial murder for their convictions -- from their confident testimony that they walked, talked, ate with, hugged and even inspected the wounds of their resurrected Lord. Not to mention, a church that defiantly began its career of witness to the risen Christ right where he was crucified and where anyone could walk over by the empty tomb. Also, the further factual matter of millions since who have met and been miraculously transformed by God in the face of the risen Christ. For, in Christ, Myth credibly became historic Fact.


Unfortunately, too often, that corrective is not enough to settle the matter.


For, Christians in the Caribbean need to appreciate the growing street-, rum-shop- and verandah-  level force of  the now fairly widespread, Afrocentrist and linked neo-pagan claims that the Bible -- Old and New Testament alike -- is little more than an un-acknowledged repackaging of especially Egyptian thought on religion. Worse, this is now being wedded to the potent force of racial and continental identity with the ancient Egyptians; who, in such minds, stand for the self-esteem boosting ancient glories of Africa and Africans.

As a "typical" sample we may examine the following confidently asserted remarks by commenter ROK at the regional blog Barbados Underground, December 27, 2009:

. . . there are no accounts of God handing down text which is now the new testament. Both the old and new testaments were written by man and this talk of man being inspired by god is a fallacy. No more than Marx and all the other philosophers in recent times.

There is no contradiction above to show that the old testament was not oral before being written down. So was the Talmud. As to the new testament, that was shaped over many years as a counter to all existing religions at the time. It actually copied the old stories out of Sumeria and Egypt.

Without this Egyptian grounding, there was no legitimacy. It had to be written or told in such a way that it was palatable with what people believed, rather than contrary to. It therefore had to be full of Egyptian culture and religion and the original texts still stands inscribed on the walls of the pyramid and other Egyptian relics.

As a matter of fact, the Egyptologists have embarked on giving tours in Egypt, taking its tourists to all the inscriptions on these walls to let them see for themselves that what is written in the bible were on those wall for thousands of years before any bible was even conceptualised. Much of the new testament is based on these old stories; The immaculate conception and the birth of christ, the death and the rising from the dead; the garden of eden; and the early characters which were replaced by the names Adam, Eve, Abraham, Seth, Lot, etc . . . .

[ROK, following up, on Dec 28th:] So what is the point of the Isis, Osiris story? It is on the walls of the pyramids, so let the author go and scrape them off. All this intellectual dishonesty in the face of solid evidence that the bible is a plagiarism of the Egyptian religion.
Immediately, it is obvious that the "solid evidence" in view is that parallels are being claimed between the Book of the Dead, associated tomb or coffin inscriptions, and the Biblical worldview. However, such a claim of unacknowledged copying (not to mention, the onward, ill-founded but atmosphere- poisoning accusation of dishonest scholarship) runs into the problem of an unbridged worldview gap.


For, the difference between Egyptian polytheistic [altogether a hundred or more gods and goddesses have been documented], idol-worshipping, magic-centred paganism -- in which even the gods are magicians -- and ethical, God-centred covenantal theism that denounces magical arts and divination for trafficking with demons is so vast that the one simply cannot be the source of the other.

Indeed, the prophets' typical attitude to idols is deservedly scathing, highlighting the patent folly involved:



     Isa 44:13 ​​​​​​​A carpenter takes measurements;
       he marks out an outline of its form;
       he scrapes it with chisels,
       and marks it with a compass.
       He patterns it after the human form,
       like a well-built human being,
       and puts it in a shrine.

     14 ​​​​​​​He cuts down cedars
       and acquires a cypress or an oak.
       He gets trees from the forest;
       he plants a cedar and the rain makes it grow.
     15 ​​​​​​​A man uses it to make a fire;
       he takes some of it and warms himself.
       Yes, he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
       Then he makes a god and worships it;
       he makes an idol and bows down to it.

     16 ​​​​​​​Half of it he burns in the fire –
       over that half he cooks meat;
       he roasts a meal and fills himself.
       Yes, he warms himself and says,
       ‘Ah! I am warm as I look at the fire.’

     17 ​​​​​​​With the rest of it he makes a god, his idol;
       he bows down to it and worships it.
       He prays to it, saying,
       ‘Rescue me, for you are my god!’
     18 ​​​​​​​They do not comprehend or understand,
       for their eyes are blind and cannot see;
       their minds do not discern.

     19 ​​​​​​​No one thinks to himself,
       nor do they comprehend or understand
and say to themselves:
       ‘I burned half of it in the fire –
       yes, I baked bread over the coals;
       I roasted meat and ate it.
       With the rest of it should I make a disgusting idol?
       Should I bow down to dry wood?’ [NET]

By contrast, the Book of the Dead has been described as:
. . . the modern name of an ancient Egyptian funerary text, first used at the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BC) and still in use around 50 BC.[2] The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw[3] is translated as "Book of Coming Forth by Day",[4] or perhaps "Utterances of Going Forth by Day"[5], and the text consists of a number of magic spells intended to assist a dead person journey through the Duat, or underworld, and into the afterlife  . . . .

There was no single or canonical Book of the Dead. The surviving papyri contain a varying selection of religious and magical texts and vary considerably in their illustration. Some people seem to have commissioned their own copies of the Book of the Dead, perhaps choosing the spells they thought most vital in their own progression to the afterlife.
By studious contrast to such occultic Egyptian fascination with speculations on the gods, the afterlife and magical spells and rituals for making a success of it, the hebraic Old Testament scriptures emphasise a covenantal relationship with God and its blessings or judgements in this life: for the nation, its leadership -- prophets, priests and kings, and for the individual and the family. That covenant looked to the Day of the Lord when wrongs would be righted, and to the coming of Messiah, the Lord's Anointed Deliverer.  When the veil of eternity is lifted for a moment, the focus is typically on God's judgement, and no magical spells -- such are explicitly seen as abominations -- suffice to fool or appease God. So, for example, in his final vision, Daniel speaks of how at the time of the end:

      1 ​​​​​​​“. . .  Michael,
       the great prince who watches over your people,
       will arise.
       There will be a time of distress
       unlike any other from the nation’s beginning
       up to that time.
       But at that time your own people,
       all those whose names are found written in the book,
       will escape.
      2 ​​​​​​​Many of those who sleep
       in the dusty ground will awake –
       some to everlasting life,
       and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence.
      3 ​​​​​​​But the wise will shine
       like the brightness of the heavenly expanse.
       And those bringing many to righteousness
       will be like the stars forever and ever.
 4 “But you, Daniel, close up these words and seal the book
until the time of the end.
Many will dash about, and knowledge will increase.”

The emphasis is on a culmination of history in justice, initiated by God.


In the course of this culmination there is a resurrection and judgment with eternal consequences; but not one that any magical spells can affect. Penitent study and pursuit of the path of righteousness -- not clever manipulation of occult powers, is the decisive issue.  Paul, in Romans, explains (and points out that the principle of eschatological judgement extends to people of all nations):
Rom 2:5 . . .  because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!  6 He will reward each one according to his works:  7 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, 8 but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness.  9 There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek [i.e. the gentiles], 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek . . . .

14 For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. 15 They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, 16 on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus. [NET]
This theme was also developed in more detail by our Lord during his earthly ministry, as we may see from his parable of the rich but unrighteous and uncaring man and the poor and sick but faithful beggar, Lazarus, in Luke 16:19 - 31

After their deaths, the rich man (who has somehow picked up the name Dives in the retelling of this classic story), seeks help from Lazarus in his shame and pain; only to find that there is an impassable gulf between his estate and Abraham's bosom of rest, where Lazarus is.  Dives then requests that Lazarus at least be sent to warn his brothers. But this is refused, on the sad observation that: "If they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

This is of course a prophetic hint about how the nation will by and large respond to the news of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  

If one has not heeded the counsel of  God through his revelation of himself in the world around us and in the voice of conscience and reason, or through his approved spokesmen -- notice here, how through Moses the gods and magicians of the Egyptians were judged and exposed as powerless during the Exodus -- and so is not penitently seeking to live by the truth in love and righteousness, s/he will as a rule be deaf to the testimony that the time of the culmination has already begun:
1 Cor 15:16 . . . if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. 18 Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man.  22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him.

24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power.  25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be eliminated is death.
 So, the decisive issue is that Jesus has risen from the dead, as Paul warned the Athenians:
Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands,  25 nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone. 

26 From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ 29 So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination. 

30 Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent,  31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
So, here we come back to the central gospel theme: fulfilling the promises and prophecies of the scriptures penned by Moses and the prophets, God has sent his Messiah who died for our sins, was buried and rose, with 500 witnesses. Having risen, that Messiah has ascended as Lord and has poured out his Spirit in power, calling us all to repentance and faith in Christ. At the last, that same Lord and Christ will judge us all in righteousness. 

But, to help those caught up in the copycat thesis to see that gospel clearly, we have to first address a race-tinged, incendiary, atmosphere-poisoning rhetorical ambush.

For, anyone challenging the above "copycat" claims who is black will be seen as a race-traitor, undermining the greatness of the perceived ancestral nation of Africa, Egypt. If s/he is white, to make such a challenge will be immediately seen as the perpetuation of colonialistic robbery and enslavement, and trying to further impose chains of mental slavery.


Ill-informed, ill-advised Sunday School art depicting a blond-haired, blue eyed Christ figure will then be trotted out as proof that Christians are promoting a blond-haired, blue eyed devil as the white man's enslaving god. Indeed, in the case cited above, one participant in the exchange actually called for such race-traitor churches to be burned down as an act of liberation, and refused to apologise or retract such incitement to violence and its likely outcome if implemented: murder by fire.


This is of course a manifestation of the now unfortunately classic Saul Alinsky-inspired, Rules for Radicals tactic of personalising issues and polarising discussion through stirring up blinding, rage-driven hostility.  Specifically, this is the now too often habitual trifecta combination fallacy of distractive red herrings, led away to strawman caricatures soaked in ad hominem-laced personal attacks, and ignited with angry rhetoric that confuses, clouds, poisons and polarises the atmosphere.


The most spiritually effective response is through Jesus' planks and sawdust principle, from the Sermon on the Mount:
 Matt 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye . . . ' [ESV]
The motivational premise of the gospel is that "God so loved the world, that he gave . . . "  For, as the old Sunday School song put it, "red or yellow, black or white, all are precious in his sight." If God did not like racial diversity, he would not have created it. And, as Acts 17:26 puts it "he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth." [ESV]


So, we are all brothers and sisters and cousins, descendants of the one man and one woman God created as our common ancestor -- a point that is apparently confirmed by the mitochondrial DNA that points to a common mother for all humankind. Indeed, we see in Gen 3:20 that "[t]he man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living."  [ESV]


The Creation-anchored teaching of the Bible provides no basis for racial prejudice or oppression and injustice, whatever the sad sins of Christendom may have been, and in part still are. (And such will be the focus of a later unit.) So much is this the case, that Biblical teachings were a significant motivation for many of those who led liberation struggles against the slave trade, slavery, racism, longstanding injustices against and abuse of women and children, etc. Without dispute, that such wrongs are inexcusable is a direct implication of Galatians 3:
Gal 3:14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [= nations or people-groups], so that we might receive the promised Spirit  through faith . . . . 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as  were baptized into Christ [the covenant act of Christian initiation that is the direct parallel of circumcision in Judaism] have put on Christ. 28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave  nor free,  there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. [ESV]
No alleged "hamitic curse" can overcome the blessing of Abraham, the outpouring of the Spirit or coming into Christ and heir-ship under the covenantal promises to Abraham.


One key step of coming into that inheritance, is liberation from both euro-centric and afro-centric myths or distortions -- historic or modern -- through the well-warranted truths of the gospel.


And, while we are at it, while some ill-instructed artists of the past may well have inappropriately portrayed Jesus as having blondish hair and blue eyes (the mutations for this are concentrated in North-west Europe, a continent away from Israel in South-west Asia), a reasonable reconstruction of the face of Jesus as a "typical" C1 Galilean Jew -- remember, in Gethsemane, the arrest party had to have someone who knew him personally pick him out from the circle of twelve -- would have perhaps been something like this:



This image (based on the Shroud of Turin, rendered in tune with typical Middle Eastern skin, hair and eye colours [cf remarks here]) is actually quite interestingly similar --  e.g. compare the lower right lips and eyebrows -- to the famous iconic C6-7 St Catherine's Monastery (location of Codex Sinaiticus) Christ Pantocrator image:



With such poisonous distractors put aside, we can begin to focus the issue. 


This immediately brings up the challenge of learning to think in terms of worldviews and comparison of their core first plausibles. 

For,  a basic educational problem in our region is that we are trained to parrot a tradition -- do it right in school and you get the tick; "full facts full marks, half facts half marks, no facts no marks," etc. As a rule, those who rise above that are trained to argue rhetorically by manipulating clever words that primarily address emotions, response to allegedly credible sources or the like. Soundness, sadly, is often at a steep discount; especially because a sound argument is often difficult to follow or may even be unwelcome as it cuts across the popular view. We are generally not taught how to think worldviewishly.


And, here it shows, for the primary, basic point of contrast between polytheistic Egyptian paganism and the hebraic theistic tradition is that (as we have already seen) they are rooted in utterly distinct and incompatible worldviews, so that the one is not — and cannot be — the derivative or "copy" of the other.


For just one instance, in paganism, the cosmos or a proto-cosmos is a product of the wars or intrigues of the gods; such forget that it is in fact the creation spoken into being by the Holy One, the Creator: God. This error comes out with particular force in the legends of the magic-tinged battles of the gods over Osiris' body and Set's usurpations that form a core part of the narrative and spells associated with the Book of the Dead from about 1800 - 50 BC; or, the older 5th-6th Dynasty 2400 - 2300 BC Unas, Teta, Pepi I Meri-Rā, Merenra and Pepi II Pyramid texts [which is what we actually find on tomb walls or more likely papyri and coffins -- cf. BBC Video].


Instead, once we see that we live in a contingent cosmos [cf here Big Bang cosmology as an example] we know that such requires a necessary being to be its source and/or sustainer. Indeed, that is one basic role of the Genesis account of Creation: it sets the record straight on the roots of the contingent world in which we live. In so doing, it also provides the only stable basis for moral governance: the necessary being and Creator is the IS who can ground OUGHT by having an inherently virtuous character.


Otherwise one runs smack into the Hume challenge, whereby IS cannot ground OUGHT, and so amorality is the result. So, pagan, polytheistic systems -- just as atheistical ones, lack a firm foundation for morality. In particular, the Euthyphro dilemma in its original form (as posed by Plato speaking in the voice of Socrates) holds: the gods are either arbitrary in their requirements of moral behaviour, or else morality is independent of the gods, revealing them to be less than Sovereign over creation. A drunk, revelling Osiris tricked by the scheming Set into an ego-boosting magical power contest and trapped into death in a trick-coffin is simply not a model for sober, upright conduct.


However, there is a second rhetorical ambush. 

For, the objection may now be trotted out that "paganism" refers only to Europe, so how dare you call the Egyptians "pagans" or "heathen" or "idolaters." 


A basic dictionary definition may help clear this up:
pa·gan n. 1. An adherent of a polytheistic [= plurality of gods, usually represented by idols] religion in antiquity, especially when viewed in contrast to an adherent of a monotheistic religion. 2. A Neopagan. [Am. Heritage Dictionary, 2009. In the third sense, "a. One who has no religion. b. An adherent of a religion other than Judaism, Christianity, or Islam," offense may indeed be taken; even, when none is offered. However, the objective senses 1 and 2 are plainly the relevant ones.]
 In the case of Egyptian polytheistic paganism, the whole exchange over Isis and her husband and the associated battles of the gods further inadvertently reveals the unfortunate moral bankruptcy of a system of thought in which the gods are blown up images of drunken, egotistical royalty and nobles at court. Complete with murderous intrigues. 

We may see this from a popular elaborate form of the legend of Osiris, [cf. Frazer's long, compiled version, here] this god reigned with his wife Isis -- and, sister  (pharaohs often married their sisters) -- over the land of the living; as Ra his ancestral god (the sun-god) did over the gods. But, through a magical trick while he was drunk at a party, Osiris was killed by his jealous and ambitious brother Set, by being tricked into a magically charmed box, which was then soldered shut with molten lead and set adrift on the Nile.  


But, a diligent search by the goddess Isis, recovered the coffin from under a tamarisk tree. Osiris was brought to the house of the gods, and Isis transformed into a bird, "and flew about his body, singing a song of mourning. Then she perched upon him and cast a spell. The spirit of dead Osiris entered her and she did conceive and bear a son [Horus] whose destiny it would be to avenge his father." 

(NB: In other versions, as soon as she returns, Set spies out the coffin, and while Isis rests for the night, he cuts up and scatters the body. Isis searches and finds all but one part. She has to create a substitute phallus for her husband-god's lost organ, and so conceives her son after Osiris is raised up temporarily by Ra the sun god, for one last night of love. In yet other myths, Horus is the son of the goddess Hathor, who may also appear as his wife. That is, there is no single coherent cosmology or standard narrative, but a syncretistic and internally inconsistent combination and development of various mythical stories of the gods.)



Then with the aid of Thoth, "lord of  knowledge," she sought a revivifying spell for Osiris; the spells that were then used in the Book of the Dead.  Before it could be carried out, however, Set discovered the plan and stole the body, dismembering it and scattering the resulting fourteen pieces far and wide.  But, with the further help of her sister goddess Nephthys, Isis searched until she found all parts but one. Thoth went to Anubis, lord of the dead, who sewed the pieces back together, and embalmed him. The spell was worked,  and  Osiris came back to life. 


But, "nothing that has died, not even a god, may dwell in the land of the living. Osiris went to Duat, the abode of the dead. Anubis yielded the throne to him and he became the lord of the dead. There he stands in judgment over the souls of the dead. He commends the just to the Blessed Land, but the wicked he condemns to be devoured by Amm[u]t."  


This is illustrated in a scene from the papyrus Book of the Dead taken from the tomb of a scribe, Hunefer (c. 1300 BC, generally comparable to the time of the Exodus). Here, a first panel shows the deceased led to the hall of judgement by the jackal-headed god Anubis where in panel 2, his heart is weighed against the feather of truth/justice etc [ma'at . . . who is also personified as another goddess]. Thoth (in ibis-headed form -- sometimes this god is portrayed as baboon-headed) is the scribe who records the result. (Ammut is the crocodile-headed hippo-bodied monster awaiting the result: the opportunity to devour the failed heart, annihilating an evil man.) Then, the deceased is led by by Horus (falcon headed) into the presence of the mummified (green) Osiris; with Isis  and her sister Nephthys (sister-wife of the storm- and chaos- god Set) standing by:




Morality is indeed a concern (as is to be expected: the core law of God is written on our hearts), but the whole context is utterly polytheistic, magical -- the papyrus is a  spell meant to secure a happy fate for Hunefer -- and idolatrous. Nor should we forget that Osiris,the enthroned figure, got there because in his drunken befuddlement, he indulged a contest of magical prowess with the wily Set. Indeed, the whole book is a collection of magical spells designed to empower the deceased to achieve a happy afterlife under Osiris.


As the myth continues, Horus, in turn, with the aid of a magical knife, challenged and fought Set. After days of fighting, and losing an eye, Horus defeats and emasculates him; but refused to kill him. A civil war of the gods ensued, and in the settlement Horus was made god of the living, and Set was cast into outer darkness. 


In conclusion, the story draws the lesson that:

so it is that Horus watches over us while we live, and gives guidance to the Pharaoh while he lives, and his father Osiris watches over us in the next life. So it is that the gods are at peace. So it is that Set, wicked Set, eternally strives for revenge, battling Horus at every turn. When Horus wins, Maat is upheld and the world is at peace. When Set wins, the world is in turmoil. But we know that dark times do not last forever, and the bright rays of Horus will shine over us again. In the last days, Horus and Set will fight one last time for the world. Horus will defeat Set forever, and Osiris will be able to return to this world. On that day, the Day of Awakening, all the tombs shall open and the just dead shall live again as we do, and all sorrow shall pass away forever.
An entertaining tale, and showing some moral concern, but wholly magical and riddled with polytheism; projecting the dynastic politics of the pharaohs to the sky.  Indeed, the astute reader can spot clear echoes of that dangerously scheming court culture in the biblical accounts of the injustices meted out to Joseph and to the Israelites at the time of the Exodus.


However, there simply is no fundamental resemblance to the Creation-anchored monotheism of the Biblical religion; notwithstanding a concern for morality, a belief in an afterlife and in a judgment on one's wisdom and morality in this life: 
a --> First, it seems that the Egyptians did not realise the impact of the issues posed by Euthphro dilemma on any polytheistic system: which gods do you follow to be right, why?

b --> Specifically, is the right simply whatever the stronger gods want: might makes right? (And, if right and wrong stand above the gods, then such gods cannot be the ultimate reality that we owe our service to.)

c --> Instead, we know from the repulsiveness of naked evil, that good is better. Thus, from the law we find written on our hearts, we know that there is a cosmic law-giver; before whom we must account. (The stories of standing in the judgment hall of Osiris are now revealed for what they are: a pale shadow of this inner certainty of our accountability.)

d --> This cosmic law-giver is God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, and of ourselves. The God who by his very nature is goodness Himself, so that we cannot drive a wedge between God and goodness.

e --> Thus, too, we are his morally governed creation: creatures made in his image and so capable of love and virtue; who therefore have the awesome and terrible power of choice. (Evil then, being he abuse of such choice, and its consequences. [The problem of good and evil has already been addressed, in a previous unit.])

f --> Thus, the Euthyphro dilemma shows that polytheism -- Egyptian or otherwise -- has no answer to the problem of goodness, but by utter contrast, once we follow the testimony of our hearts that we are under moral government, it points straight to the one true, inherently good Creator God. before him, we shall all give an account.



g --> So also, we can see how the legends on the magical conception of Horus to be Isis' avenger against the murderer of her husband have been viewed in the back-light of the virginal conception of our Lord and recast as an antecedent. When, on a fairer reading, the true foreshadowings plainly lie in the Old Testament prophecies, especially Gen. 3:15 and Isa 7:14

h --> Also, the magical revivification of  Osiris to become mummified lord of the underworld, through a similar exaggeration (and notice how the plot lines are so utterly different!), has been turned into an antecedent of the Resurrection when the 700 BC prophecy in Isa 53:4 - 12 is the true (though at the time misunderstood) context. 

i --> For the roots of Old Testament theism, then, we would be far better advised to look to Abraham (especially given the surprising support Genesis 14 -- the first point where the Biblical narrative intersects with a definite incident in regional history -- has found in archaeology; cf also here, here, here and here), rather than to the sometimes promoted idea that Moses derived his ideas from Akhenaten.

j --> For example, we will see in Gen 14:17 - 24 how both Abraham and Melchizedek independently acknowledge the Most High God; reflecting a primordial knowledge of the true God, one that is ultimately rooted in Adam. (Idolatry and pagan polytheism, thence moral chaos, arise because in resentful ingratitude, we substitute images made to look like men, birds, and reptiles for loyalty to the One true, Holy God.)

k --> So, we may freely conclude: points of the slightest resemblance to the Biblical narrative -- never mind the fundamentally different worldview contexts, plot-lines and characters -- have been strained into being viewed as the claimed originals that the writers of the Old and New Testament are alleged to have copied without attribution.

l --> How the narrative and worldview gaps that have to be crossed to do that are to be bridged, however, is never seriously engaged.

We would be far better advised to heed Charles Penglase:
It is all too easy to run eagerly after superficial parallels which cannot really be sustained under a closer scrutiny. Accordingly, [1] the parallels must have similar ideas [i.e. worldviews and key concepts] underlying them and, [2] second, any suggestion of influence requires that the parallels be numerous, complex and detailed, with a similar conceptual usage and, [3] ideally, that they should point to a specific myth or group of related myths in Mesopotamia. Finally, [4] the parallels and their similar underlying ideas must involve central features in the material to be compared. Only then, it would seem, may any claim stronger than one of mere coincidence be worthy of serious consideration. [Greek Myths and Mesopotamia: Parallels and Influence in the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod. Routledge:1994. Numbers and parenthesis added.]
By these reasonable criteria, there is no significant warrant to infer or assert that the Biblical accounts and teachings are derivative from Egyptian or other pagan antecedents. So, there is no justification for tossing around verbal hand grenades such as "lies" or "plagiarism," etc; much less for calls to arson.

"Without faith, it is impossible to please God"

As we close off this unit, let us refresh our exposure to the scripture principle. 

According to scripture, our proper response to God is gratitude-tinged, penitent trust and loyalty; guided by his word and confident in his promises:
 Heb. 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. 2 For by it the people of old received God’s commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command,2 so that the visible has its origin in the invisible.
4 By faith Abel offered God a greater sacrifice than Cain, and through his faith he was commended as righteous, because God commended him for his offerings. And through his faith he still speaks, though he is dead. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he did not see death, and he was not to be found because God took him up. For before his removal he had been commended as having pleased God. 

6 Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

7 By faith Noah, when he was warned about things not yet seen, with reverent regard constructed an ark for the deliverance of his family. Through faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going.  9 By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land as though it were a foreign country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith, even though Sarah herself was barren and he was too old, he received the ability to procreate, because he regarded the one who had given the promise to be trustworthy. 12 So in fact children were fathered by one man – and this one as good as dead – like the number of stars in the sky and like the innumerable grains of sand on the seashore. [NET]
That faith can be clarified further in light of Rom 4:3 - 5:
 Rom 4:3 . . . what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited1 to him as righteousness.”2 4 Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation.note 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Bringing these threads together (and with influences form a great many other scriptures) we may propose a working definition of New Testament, Biblical Faith:
FAITH: Heartfelt, penitent trust in our Creator-Redeemer God and Lord, based on confidence in his character of utter, loving goodness, guided by his word ( especially his promises), and expressed through trusting Christ Jesus as our Lord and risen Saviour then walking in discipleship that manifests the truth in love, power and purity by the inner work of his gracious Spirit who lives in those who belong to Christ.

Now, notwithstanding the validity of the point that the detailed Creeds are intensely and specifically, phrase by phrase based on the C1 NT text [cf. e.g. "Light of Light" given Heb 1:1 - 3], as we can see see here, it is also plain from e.g. Rom 2, that God treats us not on being perfectly accurate and right, but on how we respond to the truth and right that we actually have access to:
Rom 2: 4 . . . do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?


5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed! 6 He will reward each one according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, 8 but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness . . . .


14 For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. 15 They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, 16 on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus. [NET]
There is a lot of room for confusion or ignorance on facts or truths there [i.e. harsh dogmatism is wrong]; but much less so for willful disobedience to the truth and the right one does know [stubbornness in error and wrongdoing are just as wrong].


 That is, we must be willing to penitently respond to mind and conscience, to persevere in the way of the truth and the right. That is a crucial test, and it applies to all of us, at whatever temporal, or cultural or theological heritage and locus we may have.
(Discussion point: Does this view of life as a test, on Rom 2:6 - 8, open the door for a legitimate,  moderate, biblically guided “inclusivism” -- as opposed to "universalism" --in how we understand how people of all times, places and cultures may be welcomed by a loving Father, where they penitently respond to the light of truth and right that they do have?  [On such a view, the gospel comes to a new culture as a breakthrough of truth, light and rescuing power, making explicit that which we may see in the world around, infer with our minds and implicitly sense from the promptings of our consciences. Christ is indeed the Light of Light who enlightens every man who has come into the world, a light that CANNOT be extinguished, however hard the forces and minions and dupes of darkness may try. But, each of us has a test in life and we must meet it with a determination to turn to the right and the truth, getting up when — not, if — we stumble. Our model should be Dionysius the Areopagite, who welcomed the truth and the right with open arms, heart and mind. Not those who — having had to build a monument to ignorance about ultimate reality: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD — only managed to closed-mindedly sneer, mock and dismiss.])
So, also, we must listen to, and heed the clear and strong testimony of nature:
Ps 19: 1 . . .  The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
2 Day after day it speaks out
night after night it reveals his greatness.
3 There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon.


Rom 1:19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to [people], because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.


22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. [NET. From duty, I must add, painful though it may be for some to read this: it matters but little whether deceptive images and artful stories that lead us away from trusting God are in pagan temples or Natural History Museums and textbooks.]
In short, there is NEVER an excuse for atheism or pagan idolatry on the part of those who have sufficient awareness, intellect, education and knowledge to be critically reflective on the world around and mind and conscience inside. "Who the cap fits, let him wear it."


Hebrews 11 extends this, putting scriptural teeth into what it means to properly respond to God in faith. Let us highlight:
Heb 11: 1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. 2 For by it the people of old received God’s commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisiblethe one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. . . . . 6 Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for
It is in this context that we may properly understand:
Rom 10: 6 . . .  the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), 9 because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him.


13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
So, indeed, there is much room for the confused or ignorant, but to indeed be a Christian and have scriptural assurance of sins forgiven, we must understand and act on the scriptural facts that the God who is Creator is Redeemer, that we are sinners in need of such redemption, and that it is through Christ that by repentant faith we find such salvation.


That is why the creeds elaborate so specifically on the context of the core gospel message of say 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 and Rom 10:8 - 10.


And, it is why that core must not be sacrificed. That is why we — especially those of reasonable intelligence and education — also need to understand the core in light of its biblical and historic context (as the Creeds help us to do).

FOR DISCUSSION AND ASSIGNMENTS

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